Updated: Feb 14
Coupled with growth and mentorship in production environments come the positioning of vulnerability
I remember the first day I met the woman I would claim as my mentor, a documentary film director in the eclectic suburb of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. A place I had landed upon my second arrival to Cleveland. I say second because my first arrival was into Solon, Ohio conservative middle America’s answer to Brooklyn. It had touches of crimes, but only minor disturbances. Inclusions of progressive and liberal but only so much as to remain reasonable. Its architecture was chic and modern while holding onto its identity. Cleveland Heights was a city willing to give on the fringes, as long as it held close to its core the values that America was given.
Cleveland Heights was urban American’s answer to the aging hipster, a snapshot of America on the fringe of Haight Ashbury and just as kind. Cleveland Heights was also a little bit smarter about how it chose to answer the world. It recognized that daisies belong in green zones and that pigs can be cool. It saw that structure and regulation had some merits. It was the hipster’s admission to his parents that maybe there was a need for a certain amount of order.
As I sat across from Laura, listening to her back story, admiring all the days and years of quality I did not yet have. Imagining how the thoughts and direction behind her craft must swell with such thought and fury that I would never be able to ascend, I also thought, damn I wanna be just like her, only better.
It was that ego that drove me to thinking that I had a chance in hell of passing her. Its angst pursued me like a serial killer. It got to get to know me. To learn my weak spots. To work towards the itsy, bitsy tiny part of me that I hide under my lungs and my spleen and my intestines and rest at the base of my core – I am afraid to fail in front of others. How the %^@( am I then to aspire to be a director?
I hate failing. I hate it. I am a sore loser and I admit it to no one but you. Because to the rest of the world I’m Ms. Happy Go Lucky, the “I never really talk about my problems” person. But I have problems, a plenty mind you, and they are listed on the never ending parchment of, can you handle only one more thing?
Except that for me problem is my drug. It’s my hit. I love solving problems. I am a bit of a people pleaser, especially to myself. And I love the art of storytelling thru film.
When I was little, I didn't realize these occupations were possible, til then they were my special occasion. My reason to get dressed up and slide on red make-up. My shh, the curtain’s opening. My crunching into a slippery crackling of perfection (nothing like my grandmom could ever make on her stove) moment of happiness. Where I wouldn’t even notice the cold even though my teeth were just chattering forty-five seconds ago. But never mind because when Leah steps forth in that white dress and her white hot beauty is transformed into the headlights of Meryl Streep's rearview and the terror in her eyes, like that of Carrie moving so effortless through the frame it almost feels she is floating, absolutely clueless to what is occurring in the rafters above.
But as the pig’s blood dribbles downward in a suspended reality – we as the audience are allowed to think and to question. We’re allowed to see the ugly human side of ourselves. Our stomach gurgles and asks if we like it.
I think that’s what film does. More than that, I believe that’s what good productions give. Visual solutions giving to us by our subconscious selves over the theoretical. The one that can safely ask those taboo questions we’re told are too difficult to access.
We ask through the retelling of the same story time and time again. Maybe next time a different set location. Maybe next time In modern day Dubai instead of 1950s Vegas. All film does it try over and over again to perfect itself. To perfect the art of consciousness as old as African and Greco and Roman gods. of Asian Confucius.
As we also try to perfect ourselves, I look across at the Caucasian woman who doesn’t know me, who has no reason to believe one syllabic molecule that comes from me. Who may be suspicious of that type, the type that lies and lies again about who they are. About what they want. The ones that bullshits with stories of grandeur that are all about the destination and overlook the journey. The ones who have yet to recognize that they will have to suffer to get what they want. Who think that the word “suffer” is a cute little accessory, a monocle on the game of life. The one who may never know that the flesh to bones finish line standing before me might have hid the fact that her water was disconnected. Or that she ate peanut butter and butter sandwiches for a week. That along the way, she possibly emptied her 401k to keep working. That she hadn’t bought a new car because she too was a dollied up fiend. Probably even shared the same suppliers hanging on the corner, except that she could afford the good stuff. And I could only afford dime bags of the smack.
As I reflect back on the past years of struggling and weigh where I am versus where I want to be, if there are any breadcrumbs to the destination of success I can deposit at my first spot it would be – you will learn you are on the right path out of the forest when you willingly suffer to get what you want.